Almost as If

Dr. K brings the medium, sensible heat today regarding Russian failures in Ukraine. It’s a good explainer without the jingoism, importantly including the economic offensives alongside the military ones that have been less than dispositive, or perhaps more so depending on your rooting interest.

But the kudos to Europe for not only resisting energy blackmail but in so doing, also for revealing that the planning and execution of the energy transition are well under way:

So what can we learn from the failure of Russia’s energy offensive?

First, Russia looks more than ever like a Potemkin superpower, with little behind its impressive facade. Its much vaunted military is far less effective than advertised; now its role as an energy supplier is proving much harder to weaponize than many imagined.

Second, democracies are showing, as they have many times in the past, that they are much tougher, much harder to intimidate, than they look.

Finally, modern economies are far more flexible, far more able to cope with change, than some vested interests would have us believe.

For as long as I can remember, fossil-fuel lobbyists and their political supporters have insisted that any attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be disastrous for jobs and economic growth. But what we’re seeing now is Europe making an energy transition under the worst possible circumstances — sudden, unexpected and drastic — and handling it pretty well. This suggests that a gradual, planned green energy transition would be far easier than pessimists imagine.

Read or listen to (not recommended!) the business news any day of the week and everything any normal person would consider good news – strong jobs report, tight labor market, increased consumer protections, penalizing reckless banking and investment behavior – is all cast in terms of doom and gloom. The sky is always falling and we can’t do this or have that and so stop wanting it and vote for more oppression of the powerless. Kick down, pull up the ladders, that’s all we can do.

What if – and yes, caution, slight optimism ahead – all of that is itself just a form of corruption? The fossil fuel industry, just as an obvious example, has been assuring us since the 1970s that it just can’t be done, there is no way to replace coal as our primary energy source, so stop trying. Wind stops blowing. Solar? Have you heard of nighttime? It’s too expensive, too impractical, is itself bad for the environment. Birds! Plus, people hate to see windmills. They don’t want electric cars. Meanwhile what has happened? What is happening?

What if we decided to get even more bold, rather than cowering in fear about what we’re afraid to do, that we are reminded we can’t do? What other issues out there might not be so inviolate?


The Big Muddy


From Mark Twain’s The Body of the Nation, Harper’s 1863:

It is a remarkable river in this:  that instead of widening toward its mouth,
it grows narrower; grows narrower and deeper.  From the junction of the Ohio
to a point half way down to the sea, the width averages a mile in high water:
thence to the sea the width steadily diminishes, until, at the ‘Passes,’ above
the mouth, it is but little over half a mile.  At the junction of the Ohio
the Mississippi’s depth is eighty-seven feet; the depth increases gradually,
reaching one hundred and twenty-nine just above the mouth.

The difference in rise and fall is also remarkable–not in the upper,
but in the lower river.  The rise is tolerably uniform down to Natchez
(three hundred and sixty miles above the mouth)–about fifty feet.
But at Bayou La Fourche the river rises only twenty-four feet;
at New Orleans only fifteen, and just above the mouth only two
and one half.

An article in the New Orleans ‘Times-Democrat,’ based upon reports
of able engineers, states that the river annually empties four hundred
and six million tons of mud into the Gulf of Mexico–which brings to mind
Captain Marryat’s rude name for the Mississippi–‘the Great Sewer.’
This mud, solidified, would make a mass a mile square and two hundred
and forty-one feet high.

The mud deposit gradually extends the land–but only gradually;
it has extended it not quite a third of a mile in the two hundred
years which have elapsed since the river took its place in history.
The belief of the scientific people is, that the mouth used to be
at Baton Rouge, where the hills cease, and that the two hundred
miles of land between there and the Gulf was built by the river.
This gives us the age of that piece of country, without any
trouble at all–one hundred and twenty thousand years.
Yet it is much the youthfullest batch of country that lies
around there anywhere.

The Mississippi is remarkable in still another way–
its disposition to make prodigious jumps by cutting through narrow
necks of land, and thus straightening and shortening itself.
More than once it has shortened itself thirty miles at
a single jump!  These cut-offs have had curious effects:
they have thrown several river towns out into the rural districts,
and built up sand bars and forests in front of them.
The town of Delta used to be three miles below Vicksburg:
a recent cutoff has radically changed the position, and Delta is now TWO
MILES ABOVE Vicksburg.